UK to tackle Spain about long queues
According to the Gibraltar press, Britain is to complain to Spain about the three-hour- long queues motorists had to endure to cross the border on Sunday. The official Spanish version was that the Guardia Civil were searching for contraband tobacco – which they do most days without holding up the traffic too much. However, the feeling in Gib is that Sunday’s queues had something to do with Chief Minister Fabian Picardo’s appearance on Spanish television the night before.
Mr Picardo had been invited by Telecinco to participate in a debate to explain Gibraltar’s crackdown on Spanish fishing vessels in its water but the programme did little more than highlight just how little the Spanish know about the Rock and how the Spanish press goes out of its way to misrepresent anything to do with Gibraltar. The Spanish daily La Razon had Gibraltar on a war footing last week, showing a helicopter allegedly monitoring the Spanish fishing boats when in fact the photo was of a helicopter crew practising in Hampshire for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations last weekend. Other Spanish newspapers claimed that the Royal Navy was being sent in to keep the Spanish boats away.
After a period of relatively peaceful relations under the Socialist government, the current Partido Popular government is taking a much harder line on anything to do with Gibraltar, as the events of the last week show.
Last Wednesday, the Interior Ministry said it was prepared to send Guardia Civil escorts out with fishing vessels in the disputed waters, which it claimed were not ceded to Britain with Gibraltar and Menorca as part of the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht. Agriculture Minister Miguel Arias Cañete said on Thursday that the escorts had gone into action and as a result the Spanish fleet was able to fish “in complete normality”. However, El Pais newspaper reported that it had not been able to confirm that the Guardia had been deployed on Wednesday night.
On Thursday, the mayor of Algeciras and Partido Popular MP Juan Ignacio Landaluce, said that “patience has its limits.”
He said “a solution has been sought but they have not given an inch. Who is acting irresponsibly – those who are trying to protect what is theirs (meaning Spain) or those who are making the situation tenser?”
The problem dates back to last March, when negotiations between fishermen’s guilds in La Línea and Algeciras and Gibraltar broke down after the latter annulled a 1999 agreement allowing the fleets to fish up to half a nautical mile from The Rock.
The heightening of tension came a day after the Royal Household announced, on government advice, that Queen Sofía would not be attending a gathering of world monarchies at Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace in honour of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee. One newspaper revealed that the Queen had been looking forward to the visit and only backed out because she was ordered to. Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo said on Thursday the decision was taken to avoid a potentially uncomfortable situation for the Queen. “What would have happened if there had been an incident (with the fishing boats) during the Queen’s stay in London?” he said at a press conference on Thursday.
The Spanish government had already expressed its displeasure with Prince Edward’s scheduled visit to Gibraltar next month, but the European Monarchic Association came out in support of the visit, saying monarchs have the “obligation” to honour invitations from others. Pedro Schwenzer, the association’s president, said trying to prevent British Royals from visiting their subjects was “ridiculous”.
Fortunately the “war” is being confined to words – at the moment.
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